Women In Dance In The Early 20th Century

Created on May 02, 2016 by Kathy Pinna
From skimpy costumes to being covered head to toe, dancers in the first half of the 20th century were a diverse lot. But they all focused on changing the form of dance and the way people viewed women. These are photos of those diverse, independent dancers and their impact on society and thinking in the early 20th century.

Women In Dance In The Early 20th Century

Gypsy Rose Lee

Gypsy Rose Lee

A famous "striptease" dancer, Gypsy Rose Lee shed her clothes (but not all of them!) with elegance and wit.

Mata Hari

Mata Hari in Paris

Grietje Zelle, known as "Mata Hari" on stage, in 1906 Paris. Her stage presence - and her life - were considered scandalous but she lived the way she chose to!

Quaker School dancers

May Festival at Friends Select School

1920 dancers at the Friends Select School - May Festival.


Ginger Rogers

Ginger Rogers

Best known for dancing with Fred Astaire, she could do it all - from tap to dancing backwards in high heels!


Isadora Duncan dancers

Isadora Duncan is considered "The Mother of Modern Dance". These are some of the girls she taught.

Elizabeth Duncan

Elizabeth Duncan dancer

Sister of Isadora, she ran a school of dance in Germany and Greece

Ruth St. Denis

Ruth St. Denis, White Photo

Another pioneer of modern dance, this is Ruth St. Denis in 1909.


The "Butterfly Dance"

Suffragette Ball - Butterfly Dance

Suffragettes performing their own version of modern dance for the cause in 1913.


Female dancer

Her name isn't recorded but this colorized close-up of a dancer somewhere in the '20's or 30's gives you an idea of the types of costumes during that era.

The artistry

Ruth St. Denis dancing

This is a 1927 photo of Ruth St. Denis - the focus in dance was on the artistry, as this photo shows.

Guthrie dancers 1924

Guthrie dancers in St. Mark's Church

Greek and Roman influences were a large part of the modern dance movement.

Autochrome of a dancer

Dancer in a red-orange costume

The autochrome process (a color photo) was patented in 1903 and widely used from the 1910's through the mid 1930's.

Dancers in nature

Elizabeth Duncan dancers

The female form, as well as nature, was celebrated in modern dance.


Bebe Daniels 1934

Bebe Daniels 1934

She was a silent screen star and dancer - nothing "natural" abouthercostume!

Maria-Theresa Duncan

Maria Theresa Duncan and the Isadorables

These are the Isadorables, including Maria-Theresa Duncan who was an adopted daughter of Isadora Duncan.

Florence Fleming Noyes

Florence Fleming Noyes

Florence Noyes danced for women's rights - can't you see the movement in this photo?

Women as Madonna?

Isadora Duncan dancers

These are the Isadorables, posed more as a tableau than a dance form.

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